Havana, January 1966. The Cuban capital hosts 500 delegates from 82 countries in the “Conference of solidarity with the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America,” commonly known as the Tricontinental Conference. For 12 days, representatives from governments and liberation movements debated and built a common struggle agenda.
With the Cold War raging, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist battlefields sprung up everywhere. In Africa, independence was being consolidated or fought for, while in Asia China faced up against internal and external enemies. In this hemisphere, the Cuban Revolution created an extremely dangerous precedent for Washington in its “backyard.” At the same time, a counteroffensive by the US and its allies gave rise to CIA-orchestrated coups in cases like Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954) and Indonesia (1965).
Other January milestones
But the main struggle epicenter was the Vietnam War, with the massive and direct US involvement, and it took center stage at the Tricontinental Conference.
“We could be staring at a bright and near future if two, three, many Vietnams arose around the world […]!” With this famous sentence, published in a pamphlet one year later, Ernesto “Che” Guevara captured the spirit of the conference. Far from trivializing the hardships of the Vietnamese people, Che was calling for the emergence of flash points that would divide and wear down imperialist forces.
The conference produced the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL) and a renewed momentum against (neo)colonial regimes. The following years saw the independence of the last African colonies, the overthrow of dictatorships in Latin America and, especially, the triumph of the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. There were also battlefronts inside the US, with the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party challenging colonial practices at home.
Washington’s response was also aggressive, redoubling efforts to retain geo-strategic control and unleashing bloody coups such as the one in Chile. Nevertheless, the Tricontinental Conference remains a landmark, a demonstration that there is but one common fight for peoples’ liberation around the world. The struggle continues!